A new gold-covered telescope has been released by NASA promising to take humankind into the “first light” in the universe, observe the formation of  newest planets, and look for similar earth-like planets.

On Wednesday, April 26, NASA made the announcement, its newest telescope is the biggest ever built.  As tall as a three-story building and wide as a gymnasium the innovation is formed by mirrors covered in a thin layer of gold.

The 18 built-in hexagon mirrors will allow NASA and the rest of the world to observe the beginnings of the universe and take humankind’s knowledge of the universe to a whole new level.

A new gold-covered telescope has been released by NASA promising to take humankind into the “first light” in the universe. Photo credit: NASA / Chris Gunn
A new gold-covered telescope has been released by NASA promising to take humankind into the “first light” in the universe. Photo credit: NASA / Chris Gunn

The telescope that is promising to change the views of the universe

The Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt Maryland was the location that witnessed the unveiling of NASA’s newest telescope that will, eventually, replace the Hubble telescope.

The James Webb Space Telescope (JB) was revealed, named after NASA’s second administrator James Webb, the instrument weighs around 14,300 pounds and its final costs surround the $9 billion.

JB telescope took engineers and researchers nearly two decades to built, it was the cause of controversy since many thought it wouldn’t be accomplished. The telescope faced time over scheduled and at a time was over the original budget, having the congress almost vote against the program.

The program started at the early 1990’s after Alan Dressler, who is currently a senior astronomer at the Carnegie Institute for Science,  chaired a committee recommending the start of  a new observatory. This came just after the Hubble was launched into space, Dressler wanted to start building a telescope that could do what the Hubble couldn’t.

It took around  1,000 scientists and engineers from 17 different countries to built the telescope and after the budget was re-assigned a new launch date was set October 2018.

No one in the project had seen the finish telescope, Eric Smith, the James Webb Space Telescope program director said to the Washington Post.

“It’s amazingly beautiful, I’ve seen this as PowerPoints and CAD drawings for about 20 years now. But to actually see those dreams made manifest is really pretty moving,” he added.

How it will work in outer space

The telescope consists of 18 hexagon-shaped-gold-cover mirrors, the primary mirror of the JB telescope is about 250 square feet and is designed along with two other smaller mirrors to focus and collect some of the dimmest lights in the universe.

The mirrors are made of lightweight beryllium that can stand the -388-degree temperatures the telescope will be facing. The gold cover of the hexagons allows the mirrors to reflect infrared light, this light will allow the telescope to mark objects that are extremely far away.

The main focus of the project is for the JB to obtain and detect stars formed 13 billion years ago and give scientists a better understanding of the universe, how it formed and how it works.

It will also be able to observe throughout clouds and gas the formation of new stars and capture light of different galaxies across the universe.

NASA has assigned four essential missions to the telescope:

  1. Finding the earliest stars and galaxies
  2. Understanding how galaxies evolved
  3. Observing the formation of new stars and solar systems
  4. Scanning Earth’s nearest planets for their chemical properties and signs of life

The project is a result of NASA  in partnership with the Canadian Space Agency and the European Space Agency, the telescope will continue a few test in the Goddard Space Flight Center and it will then be shipped to the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

On early 2017 the telescope will be provided with a sun shield made by a NASA contractor in California, it will then be launched from French Guiana in October 2018.

Source: NASA